Friday, February 27, 2015

Cirque Berserk (Rhyl Pavilion)

Gone are the days when a trip to the circus would mean marvelling at what the animals could do. And that's a good thing. Because now we can marvel at what the humans can do, and surely that's much more amazing than watching a poor elephant stand on its hind legs or a horse roll over?

The talent on display from Cirque Berserk is jaw-dropping, as it tells us in its publicity. You have everything from acrobats to knife-throwers, from stunt motorbike riders to clowns. The only obvious thing missing is a strongman, but then I suppose watching a steroid-pumped behemoth lift six times his body weight probably isn't as entertaining or impressive as it once was.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Hamlet (Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Mold)

Chosen as Clwyd Theatr Cymru artistic director Terry Hands's swansong before he steps down after 17 years in April, Hamlet is a triumph he should be rightly proud of.

Hands knows his Shakespeare: he was artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company between 1978-91 and brings all his experience into this one final production at Mold. And you can tell that his vision is to focus on the text and not dress it up with elaborate sets and costumes. The play is the play, and Shakespeare's words are what drives it.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Scuttlers (Royal Exchange, Manchester)

When you walk into the auditorium at the Royal Exchange Theatre for a performance of Scuttlers, you enter a different world. The in-the-round nature of the theatre makes everything it stages immersive for the audience to a certain degree, but as you get your ticket checked for Scuttlers, you'll need to step over or past various young lads lolling about in the aisles, maybe incapacitated through gin or simply too tired from work at the factories.

This is what live theatre is all about, of course - taking the audience to a different place or time, immersing them in the world of the characters. The fact the actors stay in character before the play begins, and during the intermission, gives much more power to the piece itself.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Y Tŵr (Galeri, Caernarfon)

William Gwenlyn Parry's classic Y Tŵr (The Tower) hasn't been performed for more than 15 years, and so this revival from Invertigo Theatre is much overdue, especially as the play is so well known across Wales, among those who remember the first production in the 1970s, those who saw the S4C film, and those who remember studying it at school.

A tower of over-sized building blocks dominates the simple but focused set. These blocks make up the titular tower, which itself represents the climb every man and woman must endure through life as they progress from childhood to adolescence to adulthood and ultimately old age.

At the start of the play an everyman and his everywoman come into the world as playful children, happy to simply mess about, chat and rib each other. They start out life without a care in the world, as do most of us: it is only the process of growing up which can deprive us of such innocence.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Celebrating talent in the Welsh arts - Wales Theatre Awards 2015

The talented winners of the Wales Theatre Awards 2015

Oh what a night! On Saturday, January 31st the grand ceremony for the Wales Theatre Awards 2015 took place at Sherman Cymru in Cardiff - and what a fantastic evening it was!

The awards aim to both recognise and promote the impressive talent that Wales had to offer in the world of the arts - and in particular theatre, opera and dance - over the preceding 12 months. In December I'd been asked very kindly by organiser Mike Smith to be a nominating critic for the awards' long-list, and apart from the fact I was very honoured and flattered to be invited, I also thought it was important to make sure North Wales was properly represented in the nominations. A lot goes on in South Wales, and in particular Cardiff, in the sphere of arts and culture, but there's also plenty going on "oop north" too which I believe does not get the recognition or praise it should.

After nominating for the long-list I was then asked if I would go down to Cardiff to take part in the round-table discussions to whittle the long-lists down to a short-list in each of the 17 categories. I was more than happy to go along and have my say on behalf of North Wales!